Thanks to everyone at CofL headquarters for getting the DVD of conference and preconference presentations out to members. My slides for The Light of Egypt Mystery were already posted here, so I have transcribed my opening and closing remarks to give a sense of some of my motivations for pursuing these questions, for those without access to the conference proceedings.
You all may recall that a couple of years ago I told you that I had sworn off writing about occultism. Never again, and I had completely changed my topic of interest, which has been genealogy and local history mostly. If not for Marc I would have kept that resolution. I have gotten in some hot water (applause) for writing about some people who have personality cults and who have followers that are offended by people asking too many rude questions about them. But… pseudonyms are just like catnip to me (laughter) any author that strews their writings with pseudonyms… that is just like an open invitation to guess… and that’s what I did with Blavatsky in the case of Morya, Koot Hoomi, and other Mahatmas, and when I saw Marc doing this with Emma and Louis and Sirius, this revivified my interest in this whole field, and I have stumbled on a whole new set of pseudonym mysteries.
Marc sees the big picture, and all these subtleties. I think like a genealogist. I just want to find out grandma and grandpa’s dirtiest secrets. Because of that, there has been a lot of misunderstanding..not trying to undermine spiritual teachers, no! But what I’ve learned as a genealogist is that every family passes down legends that are full of misinformation… people forget names of siblings and get things all mixed up, and disinformation…whenever a family has a scandal or embarrassment, they always cover it up by editing the story to make everybody look better. And what I see with Burgoyne becoming Astley is very much the kind of thing that we all find in our family histories if we dig deep enough. To say that our families have handed down misinformation and disinformation is not to attack our families—they’re our families. So when I say “our Thomas,” like “our Emma,” we don’t need them to be perfect exemplars of anything to be ours. Just as… here’s my last book. The ancestor that ends up on top of the cover is the one that had an illegitimate son that lived next door to his legitimate family, who fought for the Union in the South and then deserted, who had black ancestry, who murdered a man and got away with it. These are the ones that genealogists love the most. And so I see Thomas Burgoyne in our spiritual family the same way. He’s ours, and …we are the spiritual heirs of all these people and we don’t need to evaluate them on levels of perfection. We just need to appreciate their endless creativity, their willingness to defy every social convention and live lives in such a way that, especially for women, was just inconceivable a generation before… I think that the change from Brotherhood of Light to Church of Light was a very important shift because it’s gender neutral. The mythology, whether it’s about Emma or Helena, is of women as instruments of these mysterious male figures who taught them everything they know and without whom they would be nothing. The reality is one of brilliant female authors using every man they’ve ever known in their lives as fodder, as characters in their books. So this is the brotherhood and sisterhood of light.